“Soteriology” a religion’s view of how people are saved [Greek: soterion=”salvation”]. “Saved” from what? Saved from death. A religion’s soteriology tells us who has eternal life and who doesn’t.
“Soteriological Scope” is my phrase to explore the narrowness of a religion’s afterlife myths. Exploring a person’s Scope of Salvation can often help a religious dialogue between believers of different faiths. Fruitful dialogue only occurs as both believers move toward pluralism. Below are the four classic soteriological scopes.
- Exclusivism: Only believers in our faith are saved. Only our religion is true. Only those who explicitly claim our faith in this life are saved.
- Inclusivism: Non-believers can be saved, but they must still be saved by the means of our religion. They may not need to be saved in this life, but may have the opportunity after death. And in this life, it is possible that their own religion may indeed aid them in preparing for final salvation or for making good works possible in this life.
- Pluralism: Non-believers can be saved even throught the means of their own religion. Though not every one will be necessarily saved. Some will not be saved if they don’t use their religions properly.
- Universalism: Everyone has the same fate. There are two versions of this.
a) All will be saved no matter what they do or believe
b) No one will be saved because there is nothing to be saved from.
My Soteriological Scope:
As an atheist, I am a Universalist (type b). My journey out of Christianity was slow — I transitioned from exclusivist to inclusivist to pluralist — and even now, the mystical side of myself is a pluralist, I guess. My mystical side believes that if anything does survive death, it will not be anything you call yourself.
- This is part of my series: “My Favorite Kind of Christians“
- Even if your dialogue partner is using exclusivist language, generous translations may help you to see inclusivists leanings even in the most dogmatic fundamentalists.
- See my posts on 1) Many Selves, No Self and 2) Your Inner Theist
- See Theopedia articles on Exclusivism, Inclusivism, Pluralism, Universalism. There are many Biblical passages to support all of these different scopes — it depends on your method of exegesis.